Writing Content

Written content can supplement material covered in lectures, such as:

  • PowerPoint slides or Word documents
  • teaching handouts or activity plans
  • lecture notes and summaries.

Consider writing narratives to connect these materials together so that students understand how they should interact with them.

Challenges of Writing Online Content

In most cases, students will need to read long and challenging texts to successfully engage with degree-level study. However, reading digital content is a very different experience from reading paper-based materials.

  • Reading on-screen for long periods of time can cause eye strain.
  • Distractions from email or social media can interrupt.
  • Different devices may present material in unexpected ways.
  • Reading online content encourages scanning and skimming.

This guidance gives tips for writing content either as a primary learning resource or as a narrative to link resources together into a coherent journey.

Tips for Writing Online Learning Content

Accessibility and inclusivity

The University’s digital accessibility website and inclusive teaching website provide guidance and checklists on making your content more accessible. They apply to all digital content including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents, and Minerva text.

Writing style

Your tone of voice is just as important when communicating digitally as it is in person. Digital content which communicates your enthusiasm for your specialism(s) can help inspire and engage your students.

Keep your tone light and conversational: conversation creates an informal connection with your reader, engaging them with what you have to say.

Use active over passive language: active language tends to be clearer and easier to read; passive language can result in longer sentences where the meaning is ambiguous.

Address your reader directly: using ‘you’ rather than ‘students’ will help you to connect with them.

Content layout and format

Consider the following tips for your content layout and format:

  • Ensure the layout of your text is simple and uncluttered.
  • Present the content in a logical and consistent order.
  • Use headings and subheadings to break up a large amount of text.
  • Split content into paragraphs and keep an eye on their length.
  • Use bullet points to help the reader to follow the structure.
  • Write shorter sentences as long sentences can be difficult to read online. Aim for a maximum sentence length of 25 words.

If you need to add emphasis to a piece of text, use bold or a different font colour (also in bold). Avoid using italics, block capitals and underlined text, which are all difficult to read online. For further guidance see the University of Leeds Style Guide.

References and hyperlinks

Including links to resources in your content helps students to access them very quickly, enabling them to be effective learners. When citing sources and linking to reading use the Leeds referencing styles.

 Hyperlinks 

Ensure link text (the highlighted words that become the link) is descriptive enough so you can know where the link leads when it’s heard without the surrounding content. Using descriptive link text means someone reliant on a screen reader will have more confidence where a link will take them compared to ambiguous link text (e.g. ‘click here’). Visit the digital accessibility website for further guidance on accessible links.